Finally! The NHL season is well underway and we are already starting to notice some surprises across the league. The Carolina Hurricanes as sitting at the top of the league with a 4-0 record. The Buffalo Sabres are leading the Atlantic division. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars are out of a playoffs’ spot. The San Jose Sharks have yet to win a game in four attempts, being outscored by a combined 12 goals so far!
The Montreal Canadiens are set to play their first home game of the season tonight after a heartbreak loss in overtime to the Sabres last night. In three road games, the team has yet to lose in regulation and they are coming home with a total of four points. There have been some positive points, and some not so positive aspects that we’ve all noticed. So here’s a summary of the pros and cons of the Canadiens’ first road trip.
- Habs have accumulated four out of a possible six points on this road trip to start the season
- Only Montreal and Boston have yet to play a home game in the Eastern Conference
- Habs are a single point back of the almighty Maple Leafs with a game in hand
- They haven’t lost in regulation
- They average four goals per game (tied for 6th in the NHL)
- They average 35 shots on goal per game
- The power play is clicking at a rate of 33.3% (3 for 9), tied for 5th best in the NHL
- Nine players with at least 2 points
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi didn’t score a single goal on the road all year last season. He has two in three games.
- Joel Armia, Jonathan Drouin. Brendan Gallagher and Artturi Lehkonen all have three points.
- In addition to his three points, Drouin has a team leading plus -3
- Five players with a faceoffs’ percentage of 50% or over, led by Nate Thompson at 56.4%
- Never die attitude, came back from at least two-goals deficits in all three games.
- They allow 4.33 goals per game (7th worst in the NHL)
- They allow 39.7 shots per game
- The penalty kill is at a dismal 69.2%
- Tomas Tatar has eight penalty minutes
- Rookies Cale Fleury and Nick Suzuki are struggling off the gate, realizing this isn’t preseason anymore.
- Carey Price with a 3.69 GAA and .900 Sv%
- Keith Kinkaid with a 4.93 GAA and a .872 Sv%
It’s early. Too early to gauge the season on only three road games. But we are starting to notice some tendencies, some good ones and some bad ones. For example, in spite of having three assists, it is clear that in order for the Canadiens to take the next step, they need an improvement on the top-6 forward group for Lehkonen and if Suzuki delays much further to show signs of offense, they will have to find a solution there as well. The defense is atrocious, as is the penalty kill and the goaltending, while not the team’s biggest weakness, will have to improve.
That being said, there were more positives than negatives in this first road trip and now that Claude Julien will have the last changes for the next four games (at home), we should see the pendulum slowing down a bit and allow to give us all a better idea of the team in front of our eyes. The first road trip, while not perfect, is mission accomplished. Now onto the first home stand. Go Habs Go!